Welcome back, gang, for another stab at Grant Morrison's Multiversity. We had a thread about this title once before, but it petered out. Which was fine, until the second issue came out, which just begs for closer examination. So let's begin again. 

I'm no expert on Morrison, or his themes/hobby horses (I'll leave that to Feargal). But I am pretty familiar with comics history, so at the very least let me point out the trail markers as Morrison does shout-outs forward, backward and sideways. In other words: annotation, not analysis.(You guys can do the analysis!)

Step one is necessarily the Map of the Multiversity DC released. It's not only a blueprint of the DCU, but also a roadmap of sorts for Multiversity. Here 'tis (click for larger image):

Note, for example, that at dead center of the multiverse is the "House of Heroes," which will be referenced in the first issue.

More significantly, while there are 52 worlds, there is an Earth-0 (Us?), so the count will be from 0-51 -- meaning there's no Earth-52. Further, there are seven worlds denoted by question marks, presumably referring to the missing numbers 14, 24, 25, 27, 28, 46 and 49. Earth-30 has a hammer and sickle on it, Earth-10 has a red X on it, Earth-29 is square (Bizarro World?), Earth-26 has cartoon eyes and there oddities like Earth-19 where it's hard to tell what is meant.

But I'm getting ahead of myself ...

THE MULTIVERSITY #1

Cover

We see President Superman, Calvin Ellis of Earth-23, where there's an all-black Justice League, first seen in Final Crisis #7 (2009). We see Captain Carrot of Earth-C (which I imagine will get an official number before this is over), first seen in an insert in New Teen Titans #16 (1982). We also see a Mary Marvel, earth origin unknown, and a red-skinned Green Lantern with horns (Abin Sur of Earth-20). 

Page 1

The camera opens on a city with people running around like bugs, zooming in closer and closer to a woman knocking on a door, closer still to lice in her hair. The omniscient narrator intones about life taking root wherever it can. Morrison often announces his themes with the opening panels, Iike with Anthro in Final Crisis #1, and I don't believe this to be an exception. 

Page 2

A young black male is typing in commentary on the Cosmic Cosmos Forum about a new comic book from DC titled Ultra Comics, which is rumored to be haunted. I don't know if it's significant, but there was a comic book published by Fawcett that ran 14 issues from 1951-53 titled This Magazine Is Haunted.

The man is addressing a stuffed monkey as Mr. Stubbs. Mr. Stubbs was a circus chimpanzee in the 1880 children's book Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus, which was adapted into the Disney movie Toby Tyler in 1960.

The young man is listening to music (presumably) on earphones; music will play a big role in this series, so that might be important.

Page 3

The captions in Ultra Comics appear to be warning not just the young black man but also us readers to not read any further. Morrison has often broken the fourth wall, and appears to be doing so here. Mr. Stubbs comes alive (in a pirate outfit) and urges the young black man to change into his alter ego, Nix Uotan, the last of the Monitors, as seen in Morrison's Final Crisis.

Page 4

Nix Uotan refers to his super alter ego as Superjudge. That's a new reference, unless you count the obscure album by the obscure band Monster Magnet.

Page 5

The comic book has evidently summoned Nix Uotan to Earth-7, which he travels to in a ship named Ultima Thule. "Ultima Thule" was used in ancient times as a generic reference to someplace far away, generally impossible to get to. By Medieval times "Ultima Thule" was used to denote far Northern lands about which little was known, and at various times was a reference for various far-Northern areas, such as Scandinavia, the Shetlands, even an island in the Baltic Sea. The Thule Society, formed in 1918 in Germany, believed that Thule/Hyperborea was a perfect place in antiquity, possibly Atlantis, far in advance of us technologically, and the birthplace of the Aryan race. (As you can imagine, these Aryan-lovers were tight with the Nazis.) In modern times, Thule is a place in Greenland. Whether Morrison is referencing any of this, or even Conan's Hyperborea, or Aquaman's Atlantis, or Lori Lemaris' Atlantis, or even Arion's Atlantis, isn't clear.

Earth-7 is adjacent to the House of Heroes on the map, immediately to the left.

When Superjudge and Mr. Stubbs arrive on Earth-7, it is in ruins. Dead super-people litter the ruins, although I can't distinguish any of them. The words "We Need Your Help" appear in the air.

Page 6

The words in the air are apparently a message from an ethereal, vaporized Invisible Woman analog. A fiery face appears to be a transformed Human Torch analog. A stretched-out Mr. Fantastic analog dominates the foreground, while some of the ruins are sentient and moving, apparently all that's left of this planet's version of The Thing. 

Page 7

Superjudge describes Earth-7 as "so badly out of tune, the laws of physics have been disabled." Another reference to music.

We also meet The Thunderer, the Thor analog of this world, likely based on Australian Aborigine myths or folklore, given his dialect. At his feet are various dead super-people that are avatars of both Marvel and DC characters, including Captain America, Superman, Vision, Blue Devil and Wonder Woman. (There are more, but I can't distinguish them, although one of them is possibly Cyclops.)

Page 9

The chief bad guy appears, announcing he and his kind as The Gentry, who want to remove all hope. Weirdly, he reminds me of the sidekick in Berni Wrightson's Captain Sternn. It's essentially an eyeball with bat wings. That's actually a fairly common image, but I don't know where it comes from.

We see The Thunderer from behind this time, so the figures in the background are clearer. Still can't tell if that's supposed to be a faux-Cyclops or not.

Page 14

Thunderer mentions "the Rainbow or Worlds," possibly a reference to the Multiversity Map. (He also loses his "Thor" powers -- and his front teeth -- as he reverts to Don Blake an ordinary Aborigine.

Page 15

Thunderer says "the Pitiless Ones" are from "behind the invisible rainbow" and are "opposite of everything natural." One must assume again that he is referring to the Multiversity Map, and that The Gentry are from beyond its borders. 

Nix Uotan references "The Orrery" and the "House of Heroes" from the Map.

Page 16

We meet the other Gentry: Dame Merciless, Hellmachine, Lord Broken, Demogorgunn and Intellectron. These names are not familiar to me. The latter two are portmanteaus of Demiurge/Gorgon and intellect/electron. There is a demogorgon in mythology, but it's not a significant figure.

Page 17

The "anti-death equation" is described as something that won't let you die and/or extends the moment of death indefinitely, as opposed to the anti-life equation -- central to Final Crisis -- which removes free will.

Page 18-19

We visit Earth-23 and President Superman. On Earth-23 Brainiac is apparently Superman's computer/major domo. 

Page 20

The President's assistant is Courtney. I am unfamiliar with any significant Courtneys in DC history that look like this twentysomething brunette. Courtney Whitmore is a blonde teenager.)

Page 21

We meet Earth-23's Justice League, whose headquarters resembles the pre-Crisis Justice League's satellite. Members include Steel, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Zatanna, Black Lightning, Batman, Green Lantern, Red Tornado, Vixen and a man in a leather jacket with a half-helmet of gold -- likely Mr. Terrific, but possibly Dr. Fate or Guardian. All are black except possibly Batman, who is probably black, but if he is, he's very light-skinned. 

Superman has destroyed a robot of unknown origin and unknown materials that degrades upon contact with real-world physics -- obviously, something from The Gentry's neck of the woods. Wonder Woman suggest they look for its origins "in higher planes and rare geometries, or in the harmony of spheres where endless worlds and voices sing in rhapsody sublime." 

This might be a good time to mention that all of this talk of music, musical spheres and harmony has resonance with the ancient theory of "the music of the spheres" as well as the original separation of Earth-One and Earth-Two by vibrations.

For Music of the Spheres I can't do better than Wikipedia:

"Musica universalis (lit. universal music, or music of the spheres) or Harmony of the Spheres is an ancient philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies—the SunMoon, and planets—as a form of musica (the Medieval Latinterm for music). This "music" is not usually thought to be literally audible, but a harmonic and/or mathematical and/or religious concept. The idea continued to appeal to thinkers about music until the end of the Renaissance, influencing scholars of many kinds, including humanists.

The Music of the Spheres incorporates the metaphysical principle that mathematical relationships express qualities or "tones" of energy which manifest in numbers, visual angles, shapes and sounds – all connected within a pattern of proportion. Pythagoras first identified that the pitch of a musical note is in proportion to the length of the string that produces it, and that intervals between harmonious sound frequencies form simple numerical ratios.[1] In a theory known as the Harmony of the Spheres, Pythagoras proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit their own unique hum (orbital resonance) based on their orbital revolution,[2] and that the quality of life on Earth reflects the tenor of celestial sounds which are physically imperceptible to the human ear.[3] Subsequently, Plato described astronomy and music as "twinned" studies of sensual recognition: astronomy for the eyes, music for the ears, and both requiring knowledge of numerical proportions.[4]

Meanwhile, the original concept introduced in "Flash of Two Worlds" in Flash #123 (1961) was that each universe vibrated at a slightly different rate, so the Flashes could travel from one world to another by adapting their internal vibration to the universe they wanted to visit. 

Morrison appears to be tying the vibrational concept to a literal Music of the Spheres.

Page 22

On Earth-23, Lex Luthor was trying to access the multiverse with a "Transmatter Symphonic Array" -- which suddenly activates and whisks Superman to ... 

Page 24-25

... the House of Heroes, "outside of normal time and space -- between universes" at the center of the Multiverse (according to the Map). We learn this and a whole lot more exposition from Captain Carrot, who has also been pulled to the House by a Transmatter "Hutch' as have a host of other heroes, each pulled by a Transmatter machine of some kind, which materialized on their worlds after Thunderer sent out an SOS. Captain Carrot describes the fluid in which the worlds exist as "Bleedspace" that's rotating through the fifth dimension (where Mr. Mxyzptlk lives) around a fixed point of the multiversal Orrery of Worlds."

Addendum: Captain Carrot thinks he has met Superman, but he's thinking of the Superman from Earth-One, whom he met in Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew #1. CC says that all humans look alike to him -- a racial slur on our planet, but here, the reverse: Captain Carrot literally cannot tell the black Superman from the white one. They're all equal in his eyes.

He also refers to the House of Heroes as "a watchtower," which has JLA resonance.

It is also called Valla-Hal, Valhalla sideways.

Page 26-27

We meet more heroes snatched up by the SOS. We see (and will later be introduced to) Spore and Dino-Cop (Spawn and Savage Dragon) from Earth-41, Red Racer and Power Torch (Flash and Green Lantern) from Earth-36, Vixen and Bloodwynd (no Earth specified), a Hawkman of unknown origin, Aquawoman of Earth-11 (probably the world of gender swaps we've seen before), Lady Quark and Lord Volt (of Earth-6, first seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths #4, 1986, and subsequently killed, so these may not be the same ones), plus chibi versions of Wonder Woman and Steel.

Incidentally, the Image planet Earth-41 is exactly on the opposite side of the Map as President Superman's Earth-23, which is probably significant, as we'll see next issue.

Page 28-29

Superman's Brainiac belt buckle makes contacts with the computer which is ... Harbinger. Or "Harbinger Systems," with a big floating Lyla "Harbinger" Mychaels head. Of course, she's been dead for a long time, and even showed up as a Black Lantern in "Blackest Night." She refers to herself as having been sleeping, but ... oh, who knows? Can't have a Crisis without a Harbinger, I guess.

Harbinger says "Earth-4. Earth-5. Earth-10. Earth-16. Earth-20. Earth-33. The Multiverse needs you!"

However, the team that goes to rescue Nix Uotan are not from those planets, so I don't know what that means.

ADDENDUM: Since Earth-20 needs help in the next issue, maybe those are the six Earths we're going to see imperiled in issues #2-7.

Page 30-31

The rescue party will consist of Superman of Earth-23, Thunderer of Earth-7, Red Racer of Earth-36, Aquawoman of Earth-41 and Captain Carrot of Earth-C. (I wonder if Earth-C is Earth-26, the one with the cartoon eyes on the Map? Seems likely.)

We learn that the Ultima Thule is made of "frozen music." 

We learn that Red Racer, like Barry Allen, is a comic book fan.

We learn that the adventures of the various heroes appear in other universes as comic books, just like Barry Allen reading about Jay Garrick back in "Flash of Two Worlds." 

We learn that Red Racer's civilian name is Ray (Palmer?) and Power-Torch's is Hank (Hall?). Their good-byes are very intimate, and one assumes they are gay. Their world's Superman was named Optiman, and he's dead.

The Justice League on Earth-36 is called Justice 9.

Marvel Comics on Earth-36 are called Major Comics.

Page 32

Morrison drives home the Music of the Spheres bit.

Red Racer: "-- vibrations! Of course -- the worlds of the Multiverse vibrate together! Separated only by their different pitches."

Thunderer (who has gotten his powers, and his front teeth, back): Fifty-two worlds occupying the same space. All ringing. It's all one big song."

Superman discovers the Ultima Thule is a trans-dimensional yacht powered by sound vibrations. "A musical engine for traveling between universes." He powers the ship by playing music, and selects destination by alter the pitch. 

Page 33

The crew sees a horrible monster in the Bleed between universes. Remember life taking root wherever it can, filling in every niche? I think that's what is happening here -- and possibly with The Gentry as well.

Page 34

We see Lord Havok (Dr. Doom) facing off against the Future Family (Fantastic Four) on Earth-8. He has the Omni-Gauntlets (Nega-Bands? Infinity Gauntlet?), the Genesis Egg (no idea) and the Lightning-Axe of Wundajin (hammer of Thor) which he claims will give him the Power Eternal (Power Cosmic?).

It should be noted that a Thor analog named Wandjina first appeared in Justice League of America #87 (1971) as part of the Champions of Angor, which included Bluejay (Yellowjacket), Silver Sorceress (Scarlet Witch), Captain Speed (Quicksilver), Bowman (Hawkeye) and Tin Man (Iron Man), all of whom are dead, at least they were.

Pages 35-39

We meet the Retaliators (Avengers) of Earth-8, which include Wundajin (Thor), Crusader (Captain America), Machinehead (Iron Man), David "Behemoth" Dibble (Bruce David "Hulk" Banner), Bug (Spider-Man) and characters that look suspiciously like Falcon, Captain Marvel, Black Widow and Hawkeye.

The Behemoth isn't just childlike like the Hulk, he's actually a giant, blue, super-strong baby in a diaper (like Baby Huey). 

Red Racer is the one who knows the names of their foes, from reading Major Comics (Marvel Comics) and seeing their movies. He also mentions the G-Men (X-Men) and Stuntmaster (probably the Daredevil analog, given that the Stuntmaster was a DD villain, but he rode a motorcycle, so he could be a Ghost Rider analog). 

Captain Carrot is governed by cartoon (Tex Avery) physics, which appears to be a super-power of sorts.

Pages 40-43

Lord Havok cracks open the Genesis Egg, apparently killing him (with the help of "Hawkeye") and the Future Family. He dies saying "I saw their faces," which I'm guessing is a reference to The Gentry.

Page 44

Nix Uotan is now calling himself "The Judge of Worlds" and has apparently been corrupted by The Gentry.

Once again the captions speak directly to the reader. If nothing else we should assume that the comic book we are reading is telling true events from elsewhere in the multiverse, and that it is, perhaps, haunted.

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I really did like it. And that (as they say) is what makes horse races.

Okay, I liked it but DAMN, I'm confused.......good concept, well executed but I only "fell into the mind set" of me being the comic a couple of times.

I say this as someone who owns and has read pretty much everything Morrison has ever written. (I still have yet to read Annihilator, but I'm tradewaiting...)

All I really have to say is that I agree with whoever said that they hope Grant Morrison has gotten all of this out of his system with this issue. I know this is kind of his obsession, but it's going from being something really cool to being redundant.

I recognized the Newsboy Legion and the Miracleman/Marvelman riff, and everything else honestly just kind of fell flat for me. Still, this has been a great series so far. I can't wait to own the whole thing in hardback.

Wow -- I really loved this issue. I took it at face value and played with the idea I shouldn't be reading it all the way through -- pausing at certain points to consider whether I wanted to turn the page, even if it meant letting a hostile invasive thoughtform into our universe. I'd even told Kathy when I originally bought the book that I was just buying it to get it off the shelves, so someone else would read it and doom us all. 

With that mindset, Morrison's tricks really worked: Turning the page and seeing that egg with bat wings threatening me directly was incredibly unnerving, for instance. Especially when I recalled what Ultra Comics says earlier in the issue -- they eye belongs to me!

So, yeah, I loved it. It's not a book you can keep at arms' length, though -- if you don't meet it halfway, I can see how it'd read as hokey and all facade. But by reading it in the right frame of mind, I was able to go on exactly the journey Morrison and Mahnke intended -- and it was a blast from start to finish.

Now he's saying this is a DC universe?

That contradicts his saying Animal Man can't hurt him because he can never get into this world.

 

MULTIVERSITY: ULTRA COMICS #1

COVER

As seen in previous issues of Multiversity, this “haunted” comics depicts Ultra Comics of Earth-Prime (a super-character wearing the primary triad, a Superman analog) telling us “Only YOU can SAVE THE WORLD! If you VALUE YOUR LIVES, you MUST read this COMIC!” Only “NOT” has been scrawled by a later hand between “must” and “read.”

The legend on the left indicates this issue takes place on Earth-33 -- Earth-Prime, according to the Multiversity Guidebook.

PAGE 2-3

Ultra Comics breaks the fourth wall by addressing the reader, asking our help by not turning the page and not skipping to the end. Other oblique comments refer to events in the issue, especially the ending, as if Ultra Comics has come back in time to the beginning of the book to warn us, which he has.

PAGE 4

An authoritative man in a suit at a desk also addresses the reader, pointing out that although he is a fictional character and a pen-and-ink representation, he’s “real enough for YOU to hear MY voice right inside your head.” Fair enough.

PAGE 6

The authoritative figure is now wearing a lab coat, and explains that Ultra Comics is all of us. This is an almost literal description of readers identifying with the heroes in the comics they read.

Captions say “Not a hoax! Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!” This phrase was used in the 1960s and 1970s on occasion to hook readers on bizarre covers, because readers by then had become jaded to such conventions. Morrison tacks on “Not an Elseworlds,” which is a post-Bronze Age concept that essentially did the same thing as “imaginary stories” in the past.

PAGE 8-9

Ultra Comics is created, using the same things that create comics books, albeit using the chemical names for paper, ink and staples: cellulose pulp, salt water, carbon, titanium dioxide, wax emulsion, formaldehyde, water glycol, iron blue, azo pigments. We see tubes attached to him, colored black, cyan, magenta and yellow, representing the four-color process.

Ultra Comics explains that he has been created to help us readers fend off The Gentry, although he doesn’t explicitly name them. He says that by reading this comic book, we will install “Ultra Comics™ Psychic Shield Technology.”

The captions explain that Ultra Comics has all the behavior patterns of superheroes from the Golden Age to the modern age, inclusive.

PAGE 10-11

Four panels depict Ultra Comics in four different eras, acting appropriately for those eras.

Panel 1 is the Golden Age, with Ultra Comics stopping a mugging of a man, woman and child in an alley (obliquely referencing Batman’s origin). His dialogue “Take that, Buster!”, would be pretty typical of the two-fisted Golden Age.

Panel 2 is sort-of Silver Age-y, with Ultra Comics saving a raven-haired woman (oblique reference to Lois Lane) and others from a bizarre supernatural, alien or interdimensional possession. That would fit in a Silver Age Superman comic fairly well, including Ultra Comics’ dialogue, “I’ll save you!”

Panel 3 is more representative of the Bronze Age/Image era, or at least post-Crisis, with a suffering, grim-n-gritty hero standing over a dead sidekick shouting “Why???”

Panel 4 represents the more brutal, anti-hero-ish, post-Wolverine Modern Age, with Ultra Comics brutally beating a criminal and aggressively challenging to the reader/observer with “What are YOU looking at?”

PAGE 12

Ultra Comics realizes thought balloons makes him “look dated,” so he switches to first-person narrative captions, as comics themselves did sometime in the ‘90s.

He explains that he is being created on Earth-Prime – a term traditionally reserved for indicating our planet, the real Earth – where superheroes aren’t (yet) possible. Heroes on Earth-Prime are made of paper (comics) or celluloid (movies/TV), as is Ultra Comics.

Ultra Comics is powered by readers’ belief/support from reading the comic book; that power is accumulated and focused by an “ultragem” on his forehead, reminiscent of the Soul Gem possessed by Adam Warlock.

PAGE 13

Ultra Comics says he was created to stop an attack on Earth-Prime by a “hit,” later described as a hostile alien. I’m not sure what this means, unless it’s just that people hitting each other sometimes substitutes for plot in bad comics?

The captions describe Ultra Comics as “an idea so powerful it believes it’s alive.” That is presumably a commentary on the superhero genre.

The Authoritative Man references Ultra’s “latest existential dilemma,” again referencing typical plotlines/characterization in comics.

The Captions refer to Ultra’s first adventures as “nakedly allegorical,” just like Ultra Comics and this entire issue so far.

PAGE 15

Ultra Comics finds himself in a ruined New York City. He refers to it as “a generic post-apocalyptic wasteland,” which of course we see all the time in comics, as well as Earth-7 in Multiversity #1.

The title of his adventure is “Out of His Box,” which is a pun referencing both longboxes (Ultra Comics is out of his!), and a transmatter cube that plays a pivotal role later.

PAGE 16

Ultra Comics wonders why he is where he is. “They always have a reason. Don’t they?” This is presumably a commentary on comics creators, and something we fans often ask when something we don’t care for is published.

The Authoritative Man tells us it’s a trap for Ultra Comics, and therefore a trap for us.

PAGE 17

Ultra Comics says of his readers, “it’s amazing we agree on so much.” A commentary, probably, on how the industry has shaped itself to fit what fanboys want.

PAGE18

Three captions with a Microsoft Word icon complain that Ultra’s current mission is the “same old, same old, pretentious symbolism. Yet another comic-about-comics treatise retreading the same tired themes. How about a simple adventure story for once.” We will see later that this caption device represents one of the readers, or a generic reader, or maybe even a reader collective. The complaint is a common one among many fans, such as our own Figserello, and Grant Morrison himself.

PAGE 19

A kid in red (implying she is a leading character of some kind, and as it turns out, leader of a kid gang) stands off against insectoid versions of Justice League members (clockwise from left), Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Batman, an unknown giant, Superman, Green Lantern and Flash, with Ice in the center. Three of the bugs – representing DC’s “trinity” – say what they want to eat, and each case it’s referencing what they derive their power from or what they represent. Superman: sun, Batman: darkness, Wonder Woman: life.  Bug Lantern gibbers and then says the cliché, “This ends now.”

The sidekick refers to the bugs as “crawlies” and complains they “say the same thing over and over! They say the same things!” Another commentary on clichés/herd-think in comics.

PAGE 22

 It turns out the kid’s name is Red Riding Hood, and she leads the “kids of tomorrow” called the Neighborhood Guard.  One of Superman’s nicknames is “Man of Tomorrow,” so one might infer that this kid gang – with kid gangs themselves a Golden Age creation, like Superman – is collectively the Superman analog of this planet.

OTOH, the name “Red Hood” has often been important in the Batman mythos, as a possible origin for The Joker, as the Red Hood Gang in both comics and on the Gotham TV show and as the current nom de guerre of resurrected ex-Robin Jason Todd. It’s possible she is the Batman analog of this world, which would coincide with fellow Guardsman Boy Blue being the Superman analog (Superman has been referred to as “Big Blue” or “the Blue Boy Scout” at times).

On yet another hand, there was a Red Hood in both Kingdom Come and Justice League: Generation Lost that would be age-appropriate for this character. And one of the Guard’s members looks a lot like Brooklyn of the Newsboy Legion. I guess this kid gang could be populated by various kids from various eras or parallel worlds.

Red Riding Hood describes the year as “whatever-and-5.” Not only is that true in story, but it’s also a possible reference to The New 52 having been established as having existed for only five years on a sliding scale. But there was a “Five Years Later” run in Legion of Super-Heroes, so are these kids analogs of the LSH? They are the “kids of tomorrow” – tomorrow as in the 31st century? That would make Red Riding Hood Saturn Girl, and Boy Blue Lightning Lad, and uh … well, maybe that doesn’t work.

PAGE 25

Ultra Comics meets “the Elders,” and they are three characters who also have been named “Ultra” or some variant. The first is Gary Concord Jr., the second of two characters (the other was his father) called Ultra-Man in All-American Comics #8-19 (1939-40). Another is Ultra the Multi-Alien, who starred in Mystery in Space #103-110 (1965-66), and combines the powers of four alien races. He has been re-introduced in The New 52 Justice League United as a genetically engineered baby.  The third is Ultraa, the first superhero of the original, pre-Crisis Earth-Prime and its Superman analog (Justice League of America #153, 1978), who post-Crisis was Maxima’s fiancé on Almerac (Justice League Quarterly #13, 1993). Ultra the Multi-Alien addresses Ultra Comics in what appears to be gibberish: “Mo zobba-zo ulla laroo laroo! Trago Raaga!” That’s actually a reference to the four alien planets that were the source of Ultra’s powers and name: Ulla, Laroo, Trago and Raagan. Take the first letters of each and that of the character’s original Earth name, Ace Arn, and lo, you have U-L-T-R-A.

(Yeah, it’s stupid.)

There’s a fourth character, a black man with dreadlocks in overalls, but if he’s an Ultra I don’t know him.

Ultra-Man refers to a war between two characters, Tor and Epoch, Lord of Time. The former is a caveman from one million years ago, created by Joe Kubert at St. John Publications in 1940, but later reprinted by DC Comics in its own title and in collections. Epoch was a Kang-like villain from 3786 A.D. who first appeared in Justice League of America #10 (1962). If memory serves, he was just called “the Lord of Time” for quite a while, not being given the name Epoch until maybe the Bronze Age.

Ultra-Man says “this is a broken world – part today, part tomorrow. Neither one nor the other, always just now.” A commentary on comics in general?

In the final panel, comics are again mentioned as being a communications device between worlds.

PAGE 26

The black Ultra (?) says the comics are part of an S.O.S., collect ‘em all.

PAGE 27

Ultra the Multi-Alien subdues Ultra Comics with powers from his blue, hairless quadrant, which in the Silver Age was magnetism. Not sure how that works.

PAGE 30

The character referred to up till now as “Ultra-King” and “our Space-Chief” appears, and he’s the post-Crisis Ultraa. He says he was born on a distant, doomed planet, echoing the Superman origin, but also mentions his life on Almerac, defining which Ultraa he is.

PAGE 34

Ultraa gives himself another name, Ultra-King.

PAGE 35

The black mechanic gives Ultraa another name, Rex Ultraa. (Rex is “king” in Latin.)

He says “Rex Ultraa was all we had to protect us from the thing in the box!” Just as in several other Multiversity comics, The Gentry try to subvert and destroy the most powerful super-characters on each Earth, whether they were “bad” guys or “good” guys. Here Rex Ultraa was the biggest obstacle, and they used Ultra Comics as a Trojan horse to destroy him.

Ultra Comics says “hit” means a hostile alien. I still don’t understand the reference.

PAGE 36

Intellectron of The Gentry appears. He was masquerading as the Authoritative Man behind the desk.

Page 37

Ultra Comics refers to Intellectron as “the hit entity.”

PAGE 39

Red Riding Hood says “we demand a happy ending!” Commentary on fanboys, no doubt.

PAGE 40

Morrison continues the meta-commentary/adventure, with Intellectron reduced to text in “digestive system of a comic book,” rendering him vulnerable, because “text is vulnerable to criticism.”

The reader POV captions return, continuing almost generic criticism. “This guy’s raped my wallet way too many times!”

PAGE 41

Intellectron’s dialogue can be read as a commentary on how fanboys waste their lives reading comic books. “The Oblivion Machine eats yur precious mortal hours. Grows fat on yur wasted lives. Absorbed in its picture shows, yu grow old.” (Yeah, tell me about it.)

PAGE 43

As Ultra Comics dies, he references DC’s many crises. Naturally, we see universes dying out, as they did in Crisis in Infinite Earths, only it’s really just Ultra’s brain shutting down. Or is it both?

The book ends with a caption saying we have been infected by virtue of having read the comic.

 It turns out the kid’s name is Red Riding Hood, and she leads the “kids of tomorrow” called the Neighborhood Guard.  One of Superman’s nicknames is “Man of Tomorrow,” so one might infer that this kid gang – with kid gangs themselves a Golden Age creation, like Superman – is collectively the Superman analog of this planet.

 

 

As I recall, DC had a very  obscure "kid hero" gang called "Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys" who had a female friend called "Little Miss Redhead".  I wondered if these characters might be a reference to them.

There were a couple of other characters with such specific clothing (one kid in a sailor outfit) that I wondered if all of these characters had appeared in glory days of the kid gangs, but I'm not Golden Age expert enough to know. I don't, for example, have any idea what Little Boy Blue looked like.

I had the same thoughts when I read the name "Red Riding Hood"; nice play there, Morrison!

My thoughts also went to The Newsboy Legion when I got to the part with the Neighborhood Guard.

One other thing: Morrison had a roomful of Ultras, but no Ultraman. Hmmm.

Very interesting. You know this wasn't just something that "skipped Morrison's mind."

Captain Comics said:

One other thing: Morrison had a roomful of Ultras, but no Ultraman. Hmmm.



Captain Comics said:

. I don't, for example, have any idea what Little Boy Blue looked like.

 

There;s a picture of him at the link in my previous post.

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